Sunday, September 09, 2007

What a fiesta!

Yesterday the girls went to what has now been crowned as one of The Best Birthday Parties Ever.

Lauren was invited to attend a party of a friend from school. Since I wasn't sure what to expect from a Costa Rican birthday bash, I asked some expat women I recently had lunch with (at a nearby Thai restaurant—yum!—but I digress) for their thoughts.

The advice was threefold:

1. Do not show up at the time indicated on the invitation. I was warned that we'd be the first people at the party (even before the birthday girl herself) if we showed up on time. The shindig was set to begin at 1:30 and my new friends recommended I show up no earlier than 2:00. It's just a Latin thing, they said, so accept it and move on.

2. Expect that, unlike birthday parties in the US, the event may go on all day. I was told that for a 1:30 party I probably would not have to worry about making dinner that night and everyone could just have a little snack when we got home. Hey, any party that means I don't have to cook a full-blown dinner is OK by me.

3. Take Erin with me, because siblings are often planned for and included in the festivities. Oh, and parents stay to socialize, too. It is the rare Tica that drops off her child at a party and leaves.

I was so glad I had asked my question about cultural differences and similarities at birthday parties!

We arrived at 2:00 and were still early birds, but when the girls saw the venue, they were very excited. It was in a large, brightly-decorated, open-air facility (a roof to keep the rain out, but huge openings on one wall and large fans mounted on the other walls—very comfortable). Similar to Pump It Up in the US, the place had giant, inflatable play structures with one super-big slide in particular. There was also a rock-climbing wall, a Build-a-Pet (Costa Rica's version of Build-a-Bear), and some other play areas.

There were numerous tables where the parents could sit, socialize, and watch the kids. All the tables had mini empanadas and pretty, egg-brushed pastries decorated with cute little fruits, and a girl came by with a cart serving drinks to everyone (kind of like the service you get on a plane).

At one table was a rasta-looking artist-dude who did caricatures of the kids. Erin and Lauren both had their pictures done. They each received a red ribbon with the birthday girl's name and the date, which they used to tie up their caricatures (rolled into scrolls). We all agreed Erin looks a little manic in her drawing; perhaps the artist picked up on her enthusiasm at being included in the day.

Finally, on the other side of the tables was a nice-size platform/stage with a big TV displaying various scenes from High School Musical and Hannah Montana videos (I knew all the words to all the songs!). At different points throughout the day the kids got to go on stage and dance, play games, or just hang out. At one point they ran around and collected shoes from everyone; and five minutes later we all got our shoes back. I'm still not sure what this was about.

Next to the stage was a snack bar with drinks, popcorn, etc. And speaking of food, at around 4:30 (yes, three hours into the party) everyone was served pizza and a delicious cake with a light frosting and peaches in the middle. The kids (25 at least!) then had a shot at a huge High School Musical piƱata. Of course there was a mad scramble for candy, and my two both got hefty amounts in their sacks. This was in addition to the stuffed goody bags they each got to bring home (more candy!) and the balloon hats that someone made for them.


I would be remiss not to mention that the highlight of my day was meeting a friendly mom (her son is in class with Lauren) who is from Newfoundland, Canada, home of my favorite band, Great Big Sea. Of course I pretty much wigged out when I learned she was a Newfie, but even she thought it was amusing that I am such a fan of GBS, a rather obscure band in the United States, and she was even more surprised when I told her I've seen them perform live three times.

We left shortly after 5:00, and as my friends predicted, we didn't eat a full dinner when we got home. The girls both needed showers after many hours of wild play, and even I fell asleep early. Of course the girls are already planning their own parties in their heads, even though their birthdays aren't until May and July. Maybe I should start saving my pennies now.

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